Have you ever imagined the extent to which the Canadian would have already been elsewhere if Kent Hughes had arrived a year earlier?
It was an unforgettable 2021 playoff run with a goal in the national championship, the brilliance of Carey and Shea Weber dominating while he was injured everywhere.
But apparently even die-hard CH fans will admit it was an illusion. It was so close, yet so far. Tampa Bay didn’t have to work hard to win five games in the Finals. The Canadian won 24 of his 56 matches that season.
In short, no, the team was not headed in the right direction, even if this streak of magic might suggest so.
And Marc Bergevin knew that this magic would not be repeated easily. He knew Weber and Carey were leaving.
In order not to dash the hopes of the fans, and to save his job, he got too excited in the offseason.
Joel Armia ends the season with seven goals, but was excellent in the playoffs. So: $13.6 million over four years.
That took offense and when nobody wanted to touch Mike Hoffman, Bergevin wanted offensive talent, so he gave him $13.5 million over three years.
The Hurricanes stole Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Philippe Danault signed with the Kings, and Bergevin found himself with his mouth in the water. The GM therefore rushed to find a center for his top six and we ended up with Christian Dvorak, against first and second round picks. It was his last transaction with the Canadian. Unfortunately, Dvorak is not among the top six.
And during his final year, Bergevin also gave Josh Anderson $38.5 million over five years and Brendan Gallagher $39 million over six years.
No, Marc Bergevin hasn’t been bad on a full-time basis over the last year. He reached a long-term deal with future captain Nick Suzuki, offered a contract to David Savard and agreed terms with Arber Xhekaj.
A very different club
Hypothetically, if Kent Hughes had arrived before the 2020-21 season, what would the team look like today?
I love Gallagher, but if management had a choice between him and Danault, I’m pretty confident Hughes would have chosen Danault, especially with $1 million less.
If Marc Bergevin hadn’t freaked out Hurricanes management with his hostile offer to Sebastian Aho in 2019, it’s highly likely that the hostile offer for Jesperi Kotkaniemi in 2021 would never have happened.
After scoring one goal in 26 games in Columbus, Josh Anderson may not have gotten a big five-year deal.
And Joel Armia would never be put on a long-term contract with such a large contract as teams seek flexibility on the payroll.
The first six
CH would therefore line up with Suzuki, Caufield, Dach, Danault, Kotkaniemi, Newhook and Monahan to try and form a top six.
No need to drag Anderson, Dvorak or Slafkovski through the first two lines. We saw him even better in the last two matches. If he holds his own in defense, the lack of attacking creativity in the first two lines breaks down CH. Anderson, Dvorak and Slafko are working hard, but they can’t play in the first two lines. They too often hinder their club’s great offensive breakthroughs by making bad decisions with the puck.
But if Hughes had arrived earlier, Slafkovski would certainly not have been there, because the Canadian two years ago would not have been so bad and would not have had such a good choice. Not even last year.
What would be even more interesting is that those better decisions would take away $10.95 million in salary per year (Anderson, Armia and the difference between Gallagher and Danault). That’s a pretty nice check to sign a big player, let’s say you run the power play on the blue line.
That’s a big if. But CH would be somewhere else. That’s clear.